California Institute of Technology Requirements and Campus Guide

School Name: California Institute of Technology

School Location: Pasadena, CA

School Type: STEM

Class of 2022

  • Applications: 8,208
  • Admit Rate: 6.6%
  • Accepted: 542
  • Enrolled: 231

General Info


  • Middle 50th percentile of accepted students:
    • SAT: 1520-1570
    • SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing: 740-780
    • SAT Math: 790-800
    • ACT Composite: 35–36
    • SAT Math Level 2 Subject Test: 800–800
    • SAT Physics Subject Test: 770-800
    • SAT Chemistry Subject Test: 780-800
    • SAT Biology Subject Tests: 770-800


  • High Reach/Reach/High Match/Match/Low Match/Safety


  • Early Action: November 1
  • Early Action Decision Notifications: Mid-December
  • Regular Decision: January 3
  • Regular Decision Notifications: Mid-March

School Info

  • Schedule: 3-term
  • Curriculum Type: Specialized
  • Greek Life: No
  • Athletics: D3

Caltech Requirements and Campus Guide
Here’s everything you should know before you apply to Caltech

The California Institute of Technology, more commonly known as Caltech, is one of the best technical universities in the U.S. and the world. If you want to study STEM in college, but don’t know if Caltech is the right choice for you, take a look at these frequently asked questions to help you decide!

How do I apply to Caltech?

Caltech accepts applications in two rounds: Early Action and Regular Decision. Early action is a non-binding, non-restrictive program, meaning that if you apply early to Caltech, you are free to apply to other schools (EA, ED, or Regular Decision) and that if you are accepted you are not required to attend Caltech. The deadline to apply Early Action to CalTech is November 1st, and the early action admissions decision release date is in mid-December. If you are applying regular decision, the deadline required to apply to CalTech is January 3 and admissions decisions are released in mid-March.

For both early and regular applicants, you must accept or reject your place at Caltech by May 1.
You can apply to Caltech through either the Common Application or Coalition Application. Either way, you will need to write CalTech’s supplemental application essays. There are three medium-length essay questions (250-400 words) and one short essay question (10-120 words)—these essays will serve as insight into you as a student, scientist, and person. Caltech is also a QuestBridge Partner, so low-income students that have been selected as Finalists can apply to Caltech for free through Questbridge’s National College Match program or through Questbridge Regular Decision. CalTech also offers multiple options for students to get fee waivers, including an email from a school counselor.

Can I afford Caltech?

Like many top schools, Caltech offers generous need-based financial aid. Additionally, their admissions are need-blind for U.S. citizens. Financial aid funds for international students are more limited so those admissions are need-sensitive to ensure they can meet admitted students’ full demonstrated need. Without aid, the cost of attending CalTech for the 2020-2021 academic year is $77,718—that’s including the $54,570 tuition as well as room, board, and estimated personal expenses. That doesn’t include the $2,726 health insurance fee and the $500 orientation fee for freshmen. If you don’t have nearly 78k burning a hole in your pocket, you are probably eligible for financial aid. A typical Caltech financial aid package will meet your demonstrated need through a combination of grants and scholarships, student employment, and student loans.

There are a couple of factors that can affect your financial aid even after you’ve started attending Caltech. In order to maintain your financial aid, you must demonstrate “satisfactory academic progress.” On the other hand, “underloading” (taking fewer classes than a full course load) can decrease your cost of tuition and consequently your financial aid package as well. Financial aid can also change with your family circumstances (for example, if one of your siblings begins or finishes college). We always recommend that students use the Net Price Calculator for each school they’re seriously considering—to find out what Caltech would cost for you and your family, you can estimate your EFC (expected family contribution) and financial aid package here.

Am I eligible to apply to Caltech? What are the Caltech class requirements?

Caltech has a few specific requirements for high school students. They require certain courses: by the time you graduate high school, you should have taken four years of math, one year of physics, one year of chemistry, completed the most advanced and rigorous English coursework at their school, and one year of U.S. history or government (for students in the U.S.).
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Caltech has released the following statement regarding standardized testing on their website:
“As of January 2020, Caltech has eliminated the requirement for applicants to submit two SAT Subject Tests. These sections will not be considered in the application review process. This change is in effect for those students applying for the Caltech class that begins in the fall of 2021. Click here for more information about this change our admissions process.
Caltech also does not require the SAT Essay or ACT Writing exam sections. These sections will not be considered in the application review.”
While Caltech has eliminated the requirement for two subject tests, it may be useful to note the middle 50th percentile scores of recently accepted students was 1530-1570 for the SAT, 35-36 for the ACT, 800-800 for the SAT II Math II subject test, 760-800 for the SAT II Biology subject tests, 760-800 for the SAT II Chemistry subject test, and 760-800 for the SAT II Physics subject test.

What are academics at Caltech like?

At Caltech, ‘techers’ declare their option (aka major) at the end of their freshman year. There are a variety of departments to choose from—yes, even a division for the humanities and social sciences. In addition to this extensive list of options currently available, there are also 12 minors to choose from, and an interdisciplinary studies program. This program allows students to design, with faculty advice, a customized course of study to pursue interests in fields not currently covered by other options.

Research is an integral part of a Caltech education. Caltech treats its students like scientists from the moment they step foot on campus. Thanks to that mentality, they seamlessly integrate research and education. Over half of Caltech students begin conducting research during their first year, and 80% of undergraduates participate in research. While not a requirement, it is an excellent way to get the most out of your Caltech experience. 

Where is Caltech?

Caltech is one of four colleges in Pasadena, California, a city northeast of Los Angeles. Among the three other colleges, (Pasadena City College, Fuller Theological Seminary, ArtCenter College of Design), Caltech stands out as the only technical university and as the most renowned school in the city. The estimated population of Pasadena is 141,317. Pasadena is most known for hosting the annual Rose Bowl Football game and the Tournament of Roses Parade. Aside from these events, Pasadena tends to be a relatively quiet area, but is conveniently located to the lively city of Los Angeles (the second-largest city in the U.S.). To get a better sense of Caltech visually, you can take a virtual tour of the campus.

How does Caltech compare to MIT?

If you want to go to a top technical institute in the U.S., you have a few popular options: MIT, Georgia Tech, and Caltech. MIT is one of the most world-renowned universities for STEM, and comes in at the top of most STEM-related lists. But Caltech isn’t far behind, ranking number 4 on that list and higher than MIT for student:faculty ratio and research impact. MIT is significantly larger – during the 2019 – 2020 academic year, 4,530 undergraduate students were enrolled at MIT During the same academic year, 938 undergraduate students were enrolled at Caltech.

While it might be helpful to compare the two, you can’t easily say that one is better than the other; they both excel in certain areas, and it’s up to you to decide which of those areas are the most important criteria for you. Both schools conduct cutting-edge research and have well-funded labs, meaning that you will flourish as a student and scientist as long as you take the initiative to do so.

What is Caltech’s student body like?

As of the 2019-2020 school year, Caltech enrolled 938 undergraduate students. This student body consists of 55% men and 45% women. Caltech’s admissions process is well-known for being race-blind, and they report the following racial demographics for 2019-2020: 27% white, 37% Asian, 23% ‘underrepresented minority’ (not white or Asian), 5% two or more races (excluding when one race is an underrepresented minority), and 8% international.

What special opportunities does Caltech have?

Attending Caltech comes with more than just the privilege of studying at one of the best places of research and higher learning in the world; you can also study abroad and make the whole world your classroom. Caltech currently offers six official programs, in Cambridge and London, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Paris, and Melbourne. You can learn more about these programs on the Fellowship Advising and Study Abroad Office website.

If you’re not so keen on the idea of going abroad to study, but still want to add some variety to your college experience, then Caltech’s cross-registration program. Caltech has formal agreements with Occidental College, a liberal arts college in L.A., and Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. As a ‘techer’, you already have access to some of the best STEM professors and classes in the nation, but if you want to expand your knowledge of the fine arts or humanities, you have the option to do so through cross-registration. Plus, you don’t have to pay tuition to the other colleges, and you receive Caltech credit, so there’s really no downside! Still, only about 15% of students find time to study abroad.

What is residential life like at CalTech?

Caltech doesn’t have dorms, instead it has eight student houses and residences, which consist of single, double, and triple bedrooms. Each of these housing options are small, close-knit residential communities staffed by at least one Resident Associate and one Residential Life Coordinator. Caltech guarantees housing for first and second years undergraduates. A vast majority of students live on campus for their entire undergraduate experience, resulting in a strong sense of community. Each of the houses plan social events and outings, often collaborating with other houses. Since housing is such a big deal at Caltech, first years are placed in temporary housing until they’ve had time to explore each of their housing options during a two-week period called “rotation.” Each year students have the freedom (and are encouraged) to move to a different house or residence. Housing costs vary by room and building, so if you want to experience living in a nicer room, you don’t have to commit to paying the higher fee for all four years.

What extracurricular opportunities do they have at CalTech?

Caltech has a variety of clubs that cater to various academic interests, religious communities, sports, and other interests such as mixology and feminism. You can check out the full list of clubs on their website. You also have an opportunity to start your own club at Caltech, so if you don’t see a club that perfectly matches your interests, you can assemble a group of people and start your own. Additionally, Caltech has 16 intercollegiate varsity sports and is a varsity sports at the Division 3 level. They also have several intramural sports such as basketball, dodgeball, soccer, and volleyball which are open to all currently enrolled Caltech undergrad/graduate students, faculty, staff, members and their guests.